Numerous world leaders have gathered in Paris, France, this weekend to mark the 100-year anniversary of the “war to end all wars,” World War One, which raged across battlefields in Europe and elsewhere from 1914-1918.
Both U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be in attendance, and there has been some speculation that the leaders could get together for an informal meeting, if such an opportunity presented itself.
The Washington Examiner reported, however, that nothing has been set in stone and the anticipated meeting may instead be delayed until the G-20 summit in Argentina later this month. “That’s where we’re actually looking forward to meet,” Trump said Wednesday.
Maybe meet at lunch?
Both Trump and Putin have expressed an openness to meeting, but may decide not to hold one in Paris out of deference to French President Emmanuel Macron. French officials are concerned such a meeting would detract attention from the various ceremonies Macron has planned to commemorate the ending of the Great War.
As of Wednesday, Trump said that a meeting with Putin this weekend was unlikely, although he did not rule it out entirely. “I don’t think we have anything scheduled in Paris and I’m coming back very quickly. I don’t think we have time set aside for that meeting,” he said.
Still, there remains a chance that the two could meet briefly for discussions on the sidelines of separate events or at a “working lunch” that would include other leaders as well.
Indeed, that “working lunch” meeting could consist merely of Trump and Putin sitting next to each other at the table while surrounded by other world leaders
But one unnamed senior Trump administration official told the Examiner, “We do not plan a separate bilateral meeting with President Putin.”
Another unnamed official said of the “working” lunch, “There’s nothing that’s right now planned or expected to be planned, any kind of pull asides or exchanges (with Putin).”
Meeting will definitely happen … eventually
One thing that is clear is that both leaders have expressed a desire to meet. Trump has said as much himself in recent months, and that desire was confirmed in October by National Security Adviser John Bolton during a visit to Moscow.
Similarly, the Russians have expressed an interest in meeting soon.
“Russians do want to meet, but Trump — the president of chaos — wants to keep things interesting, for us to keep guessing, as he always does,” said Nina Khrushcheva, granddaughter of former Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev and international affairs expert for the New School. “All in all, it is Trump, the showman, who has Putin, the spy man, where he wants him, not the other way around.”
If Trump and Putin do end up meeting in Paris, it is likely to be brief and informal, and may only serve as a prelude to a more substantial meeting on the sidelines of the upcoming G-20 summit, if not a separate summit altogether, similar to the Helsinki summit in July.